Graham Dwyer trial: ‘No trauma to Elaine O’Hara’s bones’

Dublin architect charged with murdering childcare worker (36) in 2012

Graham Dwyer is charged with murdering childcare worker Elaine O’Hara (36) in Co Dublin on August 22nd, 2012

Graham Dwyer is charged with murdering childcare worker Elaine O’Hara (36) in Co Dublin on August 22nd, 2012


The Graham Dwyer murder trial has heard Elaine O’Hara was dead for about a year when her remains were found in September 2013 and that her body had decomposed where discovered in a forest in the Dublin Mountains.

The jury in the Central Criminal Court trial also saw a photograph of Ms O’Hara’s punctured and blood-stained mattress, which gardaí found following the discovery of her remains at Killakee on Friday, September 13th, 2013.

Mr Dwyer, a south Dublin architect, is charged at the Central Criminal Court with murdering Ms O’Hara, a 36-year-old childcare worker in Co Dublin on August 22nd, 2012. He has pleaded not guilty.

Ms O’Hara, from Killiney, in Dublin was last seen at about 5.45pm on August 22nd, 2012, near Shanganagh cemetery in south Dublin, where her mother is buried.

Mr Dwyer (42), of Kerrymount Close in Foxrock, Dublin 18, was arrested in October 2013.

Anthropologist Laureen Buckley testified that she was requested to attend the scene with the deputy state pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis.

Asked to describe the area, she said it was “densely planted with young conifer trees, [with] lots of heather and grass underfoot”.

She said the main area of human remains seemed to be where the body had decomposed. “There was a lot of liquefied remains under the skeletal remains,” she said, and concluded that “that was where the remains had lain while they were decomposing”.

She said there was “some hair found [in the main area] and there was a large area of scalp with hair still attached”.

Asked to estimate how much time had elapsed since death, Ms Buckley said there was “a small amount of ligament and muscle tissue attached but most of the body was fully skeletal [and] there was no soft tissue or organs remaining”.

She said the bones were ivory in colour, which occurs when they are exposed to sunlight and water. She said some sage and moss had formed on the skeleton.

The remains were “very well preserved” and she said she “considered it was likely about a year, but no more than two years since time of death”.

Asked to estimate the likely age of the remains, Ms Buckley said the “evidence on a whole suggested the deceased was in her 30s”.

Asked about evidence of trauma to the bones, she said there was none. There was “some post-mortem damage” that was attributed to animals, and was limited to the shoulder and knee area, as well as both ankles.

A garda involved in the search of Ms O’Hara’s apartment after her remains were found has said “cuts in the mattress” were discovered by detectives.

Garda Brian Barry of the ballistics section in the Garda Technical Bureau said he went to Ms O’Hara’s apartment on September 20th, 2013, which had been preserved at that point. There was no carpet on the bedroom floor and no bedclothes on the bed.

He said it was apparent that the apartment was not being lived in. There was no bed linen on the only bed, apart from a sheet.

He told the trial he removed the sheet and found bloodstains. He also observed “cuts in the mattress” and plastic tie wraps on the floor.

The court earlier heard testimony from the gardaí who responded to a call from dog walker Magali Vergnet and landowner Frank Doyle that skeletal remains had been discovered on Killakee Mountain.

Gda Alan Young of Tallaght Garda station said he was in a patrol car on September 13th, 2013 with Gda Shay McCormack and Gda Christopher O’Leary when they received word remains had been found.

He said he observed a pile of blocks, and Ms Vergnet pointed out that there were a number of bones on top of the blocks.

About 10 to 15 metres away, he said he noticed what appeared to be a lower jawbone, a ribcage, a tracksuit, and a shoe.

Gda Young then contacted the Det Sgt Thomas Doyle at Rathfarnham Garda station who travelled to the scene.

Asked by prosecution counsel Sean Guerin SC whether anyone interfered with the scene, Gda Young said “no”.

Under cross-examination, Gda Young agreed he was a first responder at the scene. He was asked whether a collar was pointed out to him in the area. He said it was not.

He was also asked whether a “rusty knife” was brought to his attention. “No there was no mention of a rusty knife,” he replied.

Gda Young said gardaí did not carry out a search of the area and returned to Tallaght Garda station at about 10.30pm.

Det Sgt Doyle told the court he received a call at Rathfarnham Garda Station in relation to the matter and travelled to Killakee.

There, he met the three gardaí. He said he went in “just behind the concrete blocks” and walked approximately 10 to 15 metres through “rough terrain” where he “observed a partial skeletal remains and some clothing”.

Det Sgt Doyle said the scene was sealed off. “Crime scene preservation is fundamental in any investigation,” he said. “The area was sealed off.”

Garda Fionnuala Whelan of Rathfarnham Station was the exhibits officer with the search team at Killakee on September 14th, 2013. She said a “rusty blade” was pointed out to her by a Garda sergeant a short distance away.

On September 20th, the search was still ongoing, and one of the items recovered was a shovel, which was produced in evidence.

Crime scene investigator Det Sgt Mark Collender later told the court two runners, a sock and a tracksuit bottoms he recovered at the scene were seized. The tracksuit bottoms, still stained and covered in mud, were shown to the jury.

Sgt Ronan Lawlor told the jury he was searching the scene in Killakee on September 14th, 2013 when brought the rusty blade to the attention of Garda Whelan. To the best of his recollection it was not stuck in the ground, he said.

Last week, the prosecution outlined its case against Mr Dwyer, arguing that he brought Ms O’Hara to the Dublin Mountains for the purposes of stabbing her to death for sexual gratification.

The trial, which is due to last up to eight weeks, continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of five women and seven men.